Important changes to dog control legislation

16 May 2014 in Community safety and Environment
The owners of dangerous dogs which harm others in a public place now face tougher punishment under new guidelines.
Changes made to the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 mean that from 13 May a constable or an appointed local authority officer now have powers to seize a dangerously out of control dog in a private place.

Other changes to the dog control legislation which apply in England and Wales are:

  • The law has been extended to cover private places (with a limited exception) in addition to public places. Previously a dog could only be considered dangerously out of control in a public place or a place where it is not permitted to be. The act changes this so a dog should be kept under control in both public and private places. The exception to this is a defence know as the ‘householder case’ where homeowners should not be prosecuted if their dog attacks a burglar or trespasser.
  • A new offence has been created for a dog attacking an assistance dog. These will be treated as a criminal offence in much the same way as an attack on a person. The only difference will be in the sentencing for anyone convicted of such an offence.
  • The prison sentence has been increased for those convicted of some offences. The maximum prison sentence for those convicted of having a dog dangerously out of control will be increased to; 14 years if a person dies as a result of being injured by a dog, five years where a person is injured by a dog or three years where an assistance dog is injured or killed by a dog.
  • It sets out specific considerations for a court deciding whether to order the destruction of a dog or issue a contingent destruction order. The court will be required to consider whether an owner (or keeper) of a prohibited type of dog is fit and proper to be in charge of a dog. The courts must also consider the dog’s temperament and past behaviour.

A spokesperson for Newham Council said: “We take animal welfare very seriously and have a robust approach to enforcement. The council works hard to protect the public from dangerous dogs responding to all calls it receives.

“Residents who have concerns about a dog can contact the animal welfare team who will investigate further and take action if necessary.”

The Animal Welfare team can be contacted anonymously on 020 8586 9739.